Build a Better Pizza
Keep your eye on a healthier pie
Ask any child for a list of his or her favorite foods and I'll bet a pile of
pepperoni that, nine times out of 10, pizza makes the cut. This doesn't appear
to be something we outgrow, either: In the Allrecipes.com 2002 Comfort Foods
Poll, pizza was ranked the sixth most popular food among the more than 40,000
But can you eat pizza and still eat healthily? The answer lies in the
toppings, and the more Italian the pizza, the better.
As long as it's authentically Italian pizza, with a thin and bready (not
greasy) crust made with a touch of olive oil, the crust isn't bad at all. Top
it with lots of pizza sauce made with cooked tomatoes, olive oil and spices,
and you're getting a nice dose of antioxidants.
Which brings us to the cheese: Cheese is a good source of protein and has
vitamin B-12, calcium, vitamin D, and other vitamins and minerals. But it also
contributes fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol, so don't go overboard. If you
are making your pizza at home, use part-skim mozzarella and reduced-fat sharp
cheddar to cut the fat and cholesterol almost in half.
A recent Italian study reported that pizza showed the most cancer-prevention
promise of the many Italian foods tested. People who ate a slice or more per
week had 59% less risk of esophageal cancer, 34% less risk of oral-cavity and
pharyngeal cancer, and 25% less risk of colon cancer than others. Researcher
Silvano Gallus, PhD, says he believes there is a protective compound in cooked
tomatoes that may partly explain this effect.
Here are pizza ingredients with anticancer potential, according to recent
- Tomato products. Tomatoes contain lycopene, an antioxidant also found in
pink grapefruit and watermelon. Studies show it may help protect against
breast, colon, lung, and prostate cancer. When looking for lycopene, there are
two rules to follow: cooked or processed tomato foods actually contain more
than raw tomatoes, and a little fat (like olive oil) makes it more available to
- Olives and olive oil. Olives contain the antioxidant hydroxytyrosol.
They're also considered a flavonoid-rich food, and people who eat such foods
are less likely to develop various types of cancer.
- Onions and garlic. Both contain anti-carcinogenic compounds called
organosulfer compounds. Men in China have the world's lowest rate of prostate
cancer, and a diet rich in garlic, shallots, and onions may be one reason.
Plants in the onion family contain other phytochemicals with antitumor